Rick Alverson

6.0 The Comedy
6.0 New Jerusalem
7.1 Entertainment (2015)
7.2 The Mountain (2018)

Rick Alverson (USA, 1971) directed The Builder (2010), New Jerusalem (2011) and The Comedy (2012).

Entertainment (2015) is a drama of loneliness, a tour of a man's descent into manic depression and madness, as unpleasant a film as it can be made.

A man climbs into an empty airplane in the desert. It is part of a tour of an airplane graveyard. We then see a strange performance by a clown for an audience of convicts in a prison. The same man of the first scene takes over and cracks jokes like a stand-up comedian to the same audience. Later he calls his daughter and leaves a lengthy message on her voicemail before going to sleep. The following day he performs in a saloon to a silent and indifferent audience. His cousin John watches embarrassed and later tries to console him. The comedian doesn't sound cheerful at all, he sounds angry and depressed. In the evening he leaves another phone message to his daughter. The following day he takes a tour of an oil field. Then again performs in a bar, following the clown who mimed masturbation and defecation, and again it's a failure. Since the hotel has no vacancy, he has to sleep on a couch of a family while a young woman watches him. The following morning he tours a ghost town and we hear the message that he left for his daughter the night before. He visits his cousin, who owns a fruit plantation and fives him a flying tour of the area. He is bored by his cousin's conversation. The following day he hangs out at a bowling alley, at a shooting range in the desert, at a swimming pool. He attends the lecture of a psychologist, held in a small room in front of a small crowd. She cures anxiety with colors. The following day the clown performs in a tent in front of an ecstatic crowd while the comedian waits outside. The comedian receives a phone call from someone who wants to hire him for a video. The following day the comedian follows the crew as they set up in the desert to shoot the video but suddenly leaves, walking alone back to his car. At the following show nobody laughs and the comedian insults a woman in the audience. She is so angered that she beats him up after the show. The clown finds him in the street and helps him out but, instead of being grateful, the comedian yells at him too. Then again he leaves a message to his daughter. The following day he stops to examine a car that has been abandoned in the desert after an accident. At night he runs over a dog. He stops in the dark, catches his breath, and drives away. Later he meets a young stranger who tries to strike a conversation but the comedian hardly replies, breathing heavily. He then gets drunk in his hotel room and, after collapsing to the floor, leaves another message to his daughter. The comedian crashes a private party of people who seem depressed. He never smiles. The following day he is washing his hands in the restrooms when he finds a pregnant woman lying on the floor and screaming as she's giving birth. We then see the comedian sitting on the floor and holding a stillborn baby while the woman lies in a pool of blood (alive). The next show goes even worse as he scares and insults the audience. He visits an eye doctor but the doctor abandons him. He leaves another voicemail to his daughter. The next performance is for a private party but, after emerging from a giant cake, he breaks down in front of the guests and starts crying. He jumps in the pool and he has an hallucination of himself leaving a jail and entering the set where a soap opera is being filmed. Finally we see him laughing uncontrollably in his hotel room.

The Mountain (2018) is a somber historical drama set in the 1950s, loosely based on the life of lobotomy pioneer Walter Freeman. The film is all about madness: the story is about curing madness, the doctor who cures the mad people is mad, the sane father of the mad girl is mad, and the protagonist eventually goes mad in a madly attempt to reach out to the girl he loves. The story takes place in a haunting horror atmosphere enhanced by a slow and repetitive style, drenched in evocative and somewhat nostalgic photography. The photography and the slow pace create an otherworldly but very physical tension. There are, however, narrative discontinuities and redundancies that could have been edited out. The acting is spectacular, especially from Denis Lavant.

Andy is a lonely, introverted kid who lives alone with his father because his mother is hospitalized in a mental hospital. His father is a former figure skater who trains female skaters and Andy works at the ice rink. Andy is despised by his father who seems to consider him as crazy as his mother. Andy wanders into a room whose walls are covered with pornographic pictures. His father dies on the ice rink. During a garage sale when Andy is selling his father's belongings, he is approached by Wally, the doctor who treated his mother. Wally invites Andy to travel with him and become his photographer to document his patients. They start their road trip. They reach a mental hospital where Wally performs an electroshock and a lobotomy. Wally asks Andy to take pictures of the patient and enjoys showing slides of his patients to a group of doctors. Wally entertains himself playing bowling and dancing with a middle-aged woman he meets there while Andy watches silently. They move to another asylum where the director is dubious whether there is a more humane treatment than Wally's electroshock. Wally proceeds to lobotomize a patient and kills her, but, after cursing, simply asks to perform the same operation on another patient. Andy has nightmares and uses a planchette to communicate with the spirit of his mother. They stop at a bar where Wally picks up two women. While he has sex with one of them, the other woman chats with Andy and guesses that he is still a virgin. She tells Andy that Wally is headed for the clinic where her daughter Susan is being held. She blames her madness on her father. When they arrive, the clinic's director tells Wally that he is not welcome anymore: they prefer the human medication that has become available. However, Susan's father hires Wally to perform the operation on Susan. Wally and Andy move to Susan's home. While Wally prepares to perform the operation on Susan, Susan and Andy make love in her room. Wally interrupts them and, without saying a word, proceeds to operate on her. The father gets drunk and speaks deliriously in his native French language. At another hospital Andy witnesses a patient being dragged into the operating room while desperately trying to resist. Andy goes mad himself, destroying the furniture around him until he is restrained by the staff. Wally then analyzes him like he does with his patients. Andy admits that he hears his mother's voice and refuses to answer when Wally asks him whether he lusts for men. Wally also guesses that Andy was a virgin before having sex with Susan. Wally proceeds to perform the operation also on Andy. Wally then leaves Andy at Susan's place. Now both Andy and Susan are reduced to subhumans They witness Susan's father perform a spiritual therapy ritual, dancing like a monkey in a circle of meditating people while two musicians play marimbas. Susan's father then gets drunk and spits out delirious poetry at Andy such as "I am the future that is waiting". Andy steals Jack's car and drives away with Susan in a snowy landscape. They both seem emotion-less robots. Suddenly he stops the car, gets out, and stands freezing in the snow, wearing only a T-shirt.
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